Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In a first, SC jails a judge; gives 6-month prison term to Karnan

The Supreme Court on Tuesday created two firsts in judicial history — it jailed sitting high court judge C S Karnan for six months, convicting him of contempt of court, and it gagged the media from reporting his reaction or his future statements.

The SC convicted Calcutta HC's Justice Karnan of gross criminal contempt of the apex court, judiciary and judicial process while sentencing him. It asked the West Bengal police chief to constitute a team to arrest Karnan immediately and lodge him in jail.

A seven-judge bench of CJI JS Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph sentenced Karnan, who yet again disobeyed the apex court's order to be present in court, to six months in jail for repeated defiance of orders and aggravating his offence with purported judicial orders against the CJI and other SC judges.

Keeping in mind Justice Karnan's penchant for passing orders from his residence and handing them to the media to embarrass the CJI and SC judges, the bench in an unprecedented order barred the media from reporting any statement made by Justice Karnan in future.On Tuesday, the court addressed the question whether punishment to Justice Karnan be delayed till he retired on June 11. "We will create a blemish if we do not punish him just because he is a judge. Contempt has no different colours — for a common man or a judge. We cannot differentiate that he is a judge in acontempt case."

Justice Karnan has been repeatedly passing judgments despite the SC on February 8 initiating suo motu contempt proceedings against him and stripping him of judicial and administrative work. During the three-monthlong proceedings, Justice Karnan was required to be present before the court on four occasions but he presented himself only once on March 31. On that day, the court gave Justice Karnan the option of apologising for his conduct and being let off. He spurned the offer.

Instead of appearing before the court, Justice Karnan "initiated" contempt proceedings against the CJI and six judges on the bench, imposed travel restrictions on them and ordered their medical treatment as a counter to the SC's May 1 order seeking his examination by a medical board to ascertain his mental health. On Monday, Justice Karnan passed a purported order convicting the CJI and seven SC judges under various laws, including SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and sentenced them to five years imprisonment in addition to fines.

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